5 Orlando Magic Inside help came relatively cheap, but it could be worth a lot

October 27, 2003

Juwan Howard may have pulled off the most impressive feat of his
career last season. In the final year of a seven-year, $105
million contract, he had--rightly or wrongly--become Exhibit A
when fans talked about hypercompensated pro athletes. He turned
30, the age at which many NBA players' skills begin to desert
them. He was in the hoops necropolis of Denver, playing for a
team that won only 17 games. And in spite of all that, Howard's
spirits remained buoyant and he didn't dog it on the court. "It's
all part of the business," says the 6'9" Howard, who averaged
18.4 points and 7.6 rebounds. "You get paid to do a job, you do
it."

Perhaps as a karmic reward for being a good soldier, Howard gets
to do his job under more agreeable circumstances this season.
Over the summer he signed a free-agent deal with playoff-bound
Orlando. If Howard's new salary--$28 million over five years--is
relatively modest, so too are the accompanying expectations. His
job description: Alleviate the pressure on Tracy McGrady, who
accounted for nearly one third of the Magic's scoring last season
while also leading the team in total rebounds, assists and
blocks. "If I can come in and give us 18 [points] and eight
[rebounds] every night," Howard says, "it's clear that's going to
be a big help."

Less clear is how he will play alongside emerging forward Drew
Gooden, a smooth-shooting, inside-outside threat whose play (and
even physical appearance) is reminiscent of Howard's. Magic coach
Doc Rivers is optimistic the two can coexist, though that will
likely mean alternating the 250-pound Howard among the frontcourt
positions. "I'll play wherever Doc wants me to," he says. Give
him credit: While Howard may no longer be the Man, he has
decidedly been a man about his basketball fortunes. --L.J.W.

COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES Juwan Howard
COLOR PHOTO: FERNANDO MEDINA/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (MCGRADY) UPPER CLASS Few can take over a game like McGrady, who leads Orlando in almost every key department--including spectacular plays.

ENEMY LINES
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Magic

"Their big weakness has been interior defense, and it might get
worse because they no longer have Darrell Armstrong and Jacque
Vaughn pressuring the ball for 48 minutes. They need that
pressure to create easy baskets in transition and to scramble the
game. When you're able to execute your set plays against the
Magic and work the ball inside, you know you'll either get a
layup or go to the line, because they have nobody to defend the
goal.... Tyronn Lue might be able to apply full-court pressure,
but I don't see them getting it from first-round pick Reece
Gaines, a 6'6" guard from Louisville who will have a hard enough
time proving that he can handle the point in the NBA.... Juwan
Howard and Drew Gooden are two of their best players and they're
both power forwards, which means they're going to have a hard
time playing together. Howard is skilled enough that you can
throw the ball into him in the low post, but at 6'9" he'll be
overmatched defensively against the bigger post-up centers....
Everybody talks about how Tracy McGrady needs to get his team out
of the first round, but the guy who should be feeling the heat is
coach Doc Rivers. A lot of people in the league criticize Doc for
running plays that have no secondary option built in; if the
defense shuts them down he just stops using them. So they wind up
going to a lot of pick-and-rolls and post ups for McGrady, which
makes them very easy to figure out.... The one advantage is that
McGrady is handling the ball and he can create his own stuff. I
go back and forth between him and Kobe on who's the best in the
league.... They'll make the playoffs, but then they'll face a
good, structured team that will know how to work the ball inside.
I don't see how they get out of the first round."

FAST FACT
Tracy McGrady won his first scoring title with a 32.1 average,
the highest in the league since Michael Jordan's 32.6 in 1992-93.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP with 2002-03 statistics

Record: 42-40 (8th in East)
Points scored: 98.5 (6th in NBA)
Points allowed: 98.4 (24th)
Coach: Doc Rivers
(fifth season with Magic)

ANDREW DECLERCQ

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG
C 208 4.7 4.4 0.7

BPG SPG FG% FT%
0.47 0.51 53.4 64.4

JUWAN HOWARD

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG
SF 43 18.4 7.6 3.0

BPG SPG FG% FT%
0.35 1.00 45.0 80.3

TYRONN LUE[1]

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG
PG 106 8.6 2.0 3.5

SPG FG% 3FG% FT%
0.63 43.3 34.1 87.5

TRACY McGRADY

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG
SG 4 32.1 6.5 5.5

BPG SPG FG% 3FG%
0.79 1.65 45.7 38.6

DREW GOODEN

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG
PF 69 12.5 6.5 1.2

BPG SPG FG% FT%
0.50 0.76 45.7 71.2

BENCH PVR* 2002-03 KEY STATS

F-G GORDON
GIRICEK 111 12.3 ppg 3.1 rpg 1.8 apg 43.6 FG% 34.1 3FG%
F PAT
GARRITY 164 10.7 ppg 3.8 rpg 0.77 spg 41.9 FG% 39.6 3FG%
F[1] DONNELL
HARVEY 169 7.9 ppg 5.3 rpg 1.3 apg 0.62 spg 44.6 FG%
C STEVEN
HUNTER 247 3.9 ppg 2.8 rpg 1.09 bpg 54.4 FG% 40.9 FT%
G[1] REECE
GAINES (R) 282 17.9 ppg 2.9 rpg 5.0 apg 1.69 spg 46.2 FG%

NEW ACQUISITION[1]
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college season)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 94)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)